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Real Madrid 2-2 Bayern Munich: GKs the difference as Los Blancos reach CL final

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A wild game. On one end, spectacular play between the sticks to preserve a lead. On the other end, one of the worst goalkeeping mistakes you will ever see.

Bayern Munich was the better side, but Sven Ulrich inexplicably coughed up what proved to be the decisive goal just 28 seconds after halftime as a Karim Benzema brace secured a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu and sent Real Madrid to the Champions League final.

Neutrals would have been hoping for an early Bayern goal to make things interesting, and they got just that. The visitors scored a messy goal just three minutes into the game as Thomas Muller’s cross from the right cannoned off a pair of defenders and fell right to Josh Kimmich on the doorstep who poked it home.

However, the goal seemed to wake Real Madrid up, and the hosts began to build themselves and produced a response in the 11th minute. Marcelo delivered a delicious cross to the far post where Karim Benzema had lost David Alaba, and the Frenchman scored just his third Champions League goal of the campaign to bring Real Madrid back level. The goal featured 28 passes in the build-up, second to only a Barcelona group stage score for most in the Champions League this season according to Opta.

Both teams had plenty of attacking intent, but it was Bayern that had more chances up through the half-hour mark. Robert Lewandowski shanked one half-chance just wide on 20 minutes, and Franck Ribery was dangerous down the left, tearing up Lucas Vazquez who was filling in at right-back for the injured Dani Carvajal. The best chance came just past the half-hour mark as Alaba found Robert Lewandowski at a tight angle from the left. Lewandowski’s shot was saved by Keylor Navas, and the ball popped high into the air across the face of goal, and came down on the head of Muller, but that effort was blocked. The ball again fell to a Bayern player as James Rodriguez came streaking in at point blank range, but he agonizingly blazed the shot over the bar, a strikingly bad miss.

With the German side feeling confident after the break, their hearts were broken just 28 seconds into the second half. A back-pass from Corentin Tolisso came to Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulrich, and as he went down to pick the ball up under pressure from Benzema, he realized too late that he could not use his hands on a back-pass. The momentary brain fart saw Ulrich crumple into a heap as he tried to recover, allowing Benzema to tap the ball into the open net and leaving Ulrich to contemplate one of the worst goalkeeping mistakes in Champions League history.

Following the mistake, Bayern pushed forward knowing they needed two goals to advance. Keylor Navas made a spectacular save on David Alaba from a tight angle just moments after Madrid’s goal. Then down the other end Cristiano Ronaldo missed the target badly with his first chance of the game on a platter from Marcelo.

James Rodriguez grabbed a goal back for Bayern in the 63rd minute to even the score on the day. Niklas Sule sent in a cross from a deep right position, and it came to Rodriguez in acres of space at the penalty spot. His first shot was saved from front and center, but the rebound came back to him at a tighter angle, and he buried the chance, choosing not to celebrate against his parent club.

Keylor Navas again came up huge as Bayern continued to push. In the 73rd minute, Rodriguez hammered a volley from straightaway center but the Madrid shotstopper was there to acrobatically push it away. He again stopped an effort from Muller seven minutes later. Gareth Bale, on as a 72nd minute substitute, had an opportunity to seal the deal in the 86th minute, but he was beaten by Ulrich while one-on-one with the Bayern keeper. Navas was required one more time to stop Bayern from getting a shot off in stoppage time that would have been a sure equalizer, but the Costa Rican came off his line to scoop up the cross.

Eventually, the final whistle blew, and fans of the German side will know they let a fantastic performance on the big stage go to waste. On the other end, Real Madrid reaches its third consecutive Champions League final, all under manager Zinedine Zidane.

UCL Preview: Will CR7 continue to haunt Bayern Munich?

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Bayern Munich hopes home field can be the key to its first win over Real Madrid in six tries.

The German powers have lost five-straight UEFA Champions League encounters against Real heading into Wednesday’s semifinal first leg at the Allianz Arena (2:45 p.m. ET kickoff).

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Real knocked Bayern out of the 2013-14 and 2016-17 UCL, with Bayern eliminated Real in penalty kicks during the semifinal round of 2011-12.

All told, this is the 12th time Real and Bayern have met on the road to the European Cup.

It was the quarterfinal stage last season that saw Cristiano Ronaldo score five times over two legs including both goals in a 2-1 first leg win in Germany. He also scored twice against the Bavarians in 2013-14, and twice in 2011-12 (though he missed the first penalty of the semifinal shootout).

Real’s German midfielder, Toni Kroos, is quite wary of the superpowers from his home nation:

“I’ve been playing alongside a lot of Bayern players for many years now in the national team, but if you look at Bayern’s possible line-up, you can see that they have a lot of very good players. They’re in better shape than they were last year and we’ve got to go out and play our game.”

Real boss Zinedine Zidane knows there’s a juicy subplot with James Rodriguez on loan at Bayern and very much enjoying his football, but says it’s media-driven and nothing on the mind of Zizou or James.

“I didn’t want James to go, he decided to go. I never had any problem with James and it’s more about what is said in the press,” Zidane said, according to Goal.com. “I think he will be motivated because he is a football player. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Anyone that thinks I am against James is wrong. He will want to go out and prove himself but because he likes football and that’s it.”

Rodriguez has six goals and 12 assists across 34 appearances for Bayern this season, though just one assist has come in the UCL.

Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes says James’ exit from Real might’ve been desired but it wasn’t easy for the player.

“He was a little depressed,” Heynckes said. “I took care of him, I had lots of talks with him, and step by step he found confidence. He is more relaxed within the team. Our fans here, when they see him play football, they enjoy it. Above all he is a player who has fantasy, has an overview. He is more open-minded and gives the impression he feels well and has settled in Munich.”

Bayern Munich obliterates Dortmund in Der Klassiker (video)

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A Schalke win deprived Bayern Munich of a chance to clinch another Bundesliga title on Saturday, but the Bavarians will be happy to revel in the spoils of a Der Klassiker blowout.

Robert Lewandowski bagged a hat trick in a 6-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Allianz Arena.

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Lewandowski scored in the 5th, 44th, and 87th minutes, and James Rodriguez, Thomas Muller, and Franck Ribery also scored in the big win.

American winger Christian Pulisic suffered through a 39-touch performance in 74 minutes before he was pulled for Maximilian Philip.

Bayern now leads second place Schalke by 17 points. Dortmund is four back of second, and three above fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen and sixth-place Eintracht Frankfurt.

VIDEO: Bayern’s James Rodriguez scores difficult free-kick goal

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Bayern Munich has come out of its holiday break firing on all cylinders, and Bayer Leverkusen is paying the price.

With the German giants already up 2-1, James Rodriguez stopped any hope of a comeback with an incredibly difficult free-kick to restore the visitors’ two-goal lead at BayArena.

The free-kick was inches from the penalty area, and efforts from that close to net are always difficult to get on target, needing significant bend to get around the wall from close range but also pace to beat the goalkeeper. James had both, and it resulted in a stunning effort.

Jupp Heynckes – Bayern’s favorite fireman – is doing the job in his fourth stint with the club. After appointing the 72-year-old in early October, the club had won 10 of its 11 league games heading into the holiday break, and continued that streak on the other side of the hiatus holding on for an eventual 3-1 final.

The goal is the third of the season for the Colombian and his first since October 28th. He has received significantly more playing time under Heynckes than he did with Carlo Ancelotti in charge – Rodriguez had just three appearances (one start) and 107 minutes in the seven Bundesliga matches Ancelotti was manager for this season, but he has started eight of Bayern’s nine league matches since October 21st.

The win today over Leverkusen put Bayern fourteen points clear of Schalke at the top of the German top flight table heading into the weekend slate of games.

James stars for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga win at Schalke (video)

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BERLIN (AP) James Rodriguez starred on his first Bundesliga start for Bayern Munich, scoring one goal and playing a role in the others for a 3-0 win at Schalke on Tuesday.’

James, who switched from Real Madrid in the offseason, earned a penalty and then scored in the first half, before brilliantly setting up Arturo Vidal to wrap up the win in the second.

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While the Colombian midfielder made his first league start for Bayern, American teenager Weston McKennie did likewise for the home team. Despite the efforts of the 19-year-old Texan midfielder – who covered more ground than any other player in the first half – Schalke had no answer to James’ individual brilliance.

“We created the goals very well, so we deserved to win,” said Bayern’s reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, playing in place of Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer. Neuer has been ruled out until January with another hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.

The home side was first to have the ball in the net, but Amine Harit’s goal was ruled out as Bastian Oczipka was offside. Ulreich had done well with two saves beforehand.

Bayern got the penalty after referee Marco Fritz consulted his video assistant to see if Naldo had handled the ball when James cut it back. The Brazilian defender was going to ground but had his arms raised when the ball struck.

Protests by Schalke players had no effect and Robert Lewandowski duly converted from the spot.

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It got worse for the home side four minutes later, when Bayern scored after a Schalke throw-in. Thomas Mueller, Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso worked the ball to the unmarked James, who wrong-footed Ralf Faehrmann to score his first Bundesliga goal.

Mueller hit the post with a header from a cross by James after the break, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka went close at the other end.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco brought on Swiss forward Breel Embolo for McKennie with just over half an hour remaining.

Any hopes of an equalizer ended when James eluded two defenders and delivered a perfect ball for Vidal to strike with a volley to the top corner.

“Altogether there’s no denying that Bayern had a very good day. Then it’s hard for any team,” Schalke general manager Christian Heidel said.

WOLFSBURG FRUSTRATION, AUGSBURG ELATION

Fin Bartels’ second-half header earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg and denied Martin Schmidt a winning start as coach. Schmidt was appointed Monday when Wolfsburg fired Andries Jonker after the team had claimed just four points in its opening four games.

Michael Gregoritsch’s fourth-minute strike was enough for Augsburg to beat visiting Leipzig 1-0 for its third win from five games.

Two goals from Brazilian midfielder Raffael gave Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-0 win at home over promoted Stuttgart.